Item: Kay Whitcomb “Equation” Panel
Artist/Maker: Kay Whitcomb – Perhaps the most unique San Diego enamelist (compared with the Woolleys, Barney Reid, Phyllis Wallen, James Parker, Margaret Price, and Margaret Montgomery Barlow), Kay Whitcomb achieved national recognition and won consistent awards for her work over the latter half of the twentieth century. Her work often featured fanciful figurative elements, strong geometric structure and words, phrases and quotations. Whitcomb’s unique aesthetic, combined with many innovative techniques like her chemical crust, put her in a class by herself. She studied at RISD and Cambridge School of Art, apprenticed with Doris Hall in 1946, and began teaching at the Art Center in La Jolla in 1956. The first enamel teacher in San Diego, she remained in La Jolla until 1991 when she returned to Massachusetts. Whitcomb was a board member of the Southern California Designer-Craftsmen and the San Diego Art Guild (president 1968-69) and also a member of the Allied Craftsmen of San Diego. She was a founder of the Enamel Guild West and made many trips to Europe where she was guest artist at Gustavberg, Sweden, in 1969 and Crahait, Belgium, during the early 70s. These industrial residencies allowed her to develop singular methods for architectural enamels.
Description: Heavy enamel on steel panel with thick wood frame made in Sweden during Whitcomb’s 1969 residency at Gustavberg. Aside from the great colors and shapes in this composition, the enamel features an equation specifically given to the artist by famed mathematician and historian of science, Jacob Bronowski. While in Sweden, Whitcomb wrote to Bronowski, whom she knew from La Jolla (where he lived in a Russell Forester-designed home), asking for some formulas to use in her art. Bronowski, then working at the brand new Salk Institute for Biological Studies, responded with several options on Salk letterhead. A copy of the correspondence showing the formula she decided to use is included with the work and makes for a great piece of San Diego art and science community history.
Dimensions: 20 x 30 inches
Condition: Fair – Considerable rust spots in metal and the wood frame, while sturdy, is deteriorating a bit. These issues, while noticeable, do not ruin the overall effect of the piece and are already factored into the price. This problem with the steel occurs in several of the panels she produced in Sweden. Note: the spot visible on the back of the panel is a splash of color on the surface, not rust or a hole.
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